We’ve all heard it from our stoner friends – “pot cures cancer, man!” But new research in recent years has actually shown that CBD may indeed be useful to treat breast cancer. Breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer, with an estimated 41,000 deaths from breast cancer in the U.S. in 2018 according to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
CBD is a compound found in cannabis that can create many of the plant’s medicinal properties without causing a high. CBD has been used in recent years to treat everything from seizures to anorexia, and it also has many properties that can help fight cancer as well.
It’s been known for decades that CBD is helpful in treating many of the symptoms of breast cancer, including pain, nausea, hot flashes, loss of appetite, anxiety, and insomnia according to the National Cancer Institute. CBD is also helpful in treating the side effects of cancer treatments, most notably the lack of appetite that arises from chemotherapy. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has even approved some CBD drugs, like nabilone, as a treatment for diseases associated with the side effects of cancer treatments.
While treating these symptoms does make life easier for those with breast cancer, it doesn’t necessarily help their long-term outlook. In other words, treating the symptom of a disease don’t mean curing its root cause.
But a study from the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco has some promising data. The study has conclusively proven in mice that CBD prevents breast cancer from spreading to other parts of the body, what scientists call “metastasis.”
Cancer is most fatal when it becomes metastatic because it becomes significantly more difficult to treat. Breasts have a large number of lymph nodes, which are the primary way that cancer cells move through the body from one area to another. This means that if a doctor uses CBD to treat breast cancer, it can be significantly less fatal for the patient.
That same study also found that subjects’ primary tumors (where the cancer started) reduced in side when CBD was administered. The study also discovered that secondary tumors, the ones that grew in other parts of the body after the cancer spread, decreased in size. The study also found that CBD helped prevent passing cancer cells from a mother to its offspring in utero.
One factor that drives some patients away from using cannabis to treat cancer is the stigma associated with smoking the plant. Smoking is generally not healthy, and many doctors are against recommending their patients smoke anything. But there are a multitude of other ways to administer doses of THC, including edibles, oils for vaporizing or tea, creams and other topicals, or sprays and tinctures for the tongue and gums.
For those who do decide to treat their cancer with CBD, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. CBD can be sourced from many different parts of the cannabis plant. The highest-quality CBD oil is produced by extracting the compound from an entire hemp plant, not just the plant’s seeds.
If a CBD product lists its main ingredient as “hemp seed oil,” this means that it’s extracted from the plants’ seeds, and not as effective as oil that’s extracted from the plant itself.
The idea of using cannabis to treat diseases isn’t modern. Humans have been using cannabis to treat health issues for over 3,000 years, according to the National Cancer Institute. The first doctor to introduce the plant to Western medicine was British Surgeon W.B. O’Shaughnessy, who used cannabis as an anti-inflammatory and sedative in 1839.
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